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Monday, November 9, 2009

Anheuser-Busch Brewery

Welcome to the original Anheuser-Busch Brewery. While in St. Louis, I was offered the opportunity to take the behind the scenes brewmaster tour of this 150-year-old National Historic Landmark. The tour takes about 2.5 hours and takes you through all the stages of the brewing process.

To start off, the main thing to know is that Anheuser-Busch still uses the exact same recipe and brewing process for Budweiser today as they did over 100 years ago. The reason they can talk so freely about both the recipe and the brewing process is because the only secret ingredient is the yeast. Anheuser-Busch still uses the same strain of yeast as they did 100 years ago to ensure that a Bud today tastes exactly like a Bud from 1880. This top secret strain is only accessible by four people in the company and was even frozen throughout Prohibition to ensure that it wasn't lost.

Here is a chart of the brewing process. I'll be using it to show you each step along the way.

Are you ready to start the tour? Make sure you have your hat and your safety goggles on!

MILLING (Step One)

This step is simply the milling of the rice that is used in the recipe. Back when Budweiser was first brewed rice was a main differentiator ingredient for Anheuser-Busch because it was expensive to get. Thus, by using rice in their recipe, A-B made Budweiser a more sought-after, high-end product.

MASHING (Step Two)

The milled rice is mixed with water in a cooker while the barley malt is mixed with water in the mash tank. Once the rice is boiled, it is combined with the barley in the mash tank and then, yes, MASHED. The mashing process breaks down the starches in the malt grain into sugars that can then be fermented. There are two types of sugars that result: the ones that are responsible for the calories and the ones responsible for the alcohol content. The rule of thumb is that the lower the calories the longer the mashing. At only 55 calories, Select 55 must be mashed for 8 hours!

STRAINING (Step Three)

Once the malt has been mashed for the specified amount of time, it is then strained. The result of the straining is a mixture called wort, a clear, sweet amber liquid that is then used in Step Four.


The wort is transferred to giant brew kettles . Based on a specific schedule and amount, hops are then added to the wort while it boils. Hops are added to the sweet wort to create the spice of beer. It is also what is responsible for giving each beer its unique flavor, aroma and character. Originally, hops were added to the brew kettle in their true form but this was a costly endeavor. Now, they use hop pellets which can be easily added to the brew kettle using a garbage can. Once the mixture is ready, it is put through the wort receiver to cool it to the desired temperature.


Now, it is time to introduce the mystery ingredient, Yeast, which is added to the wort in the primary fermentation tanks. This is the part in the process where the wort is turned from a sugar mixture into alcohol. It is after this step that the mixture can officially be called beer. This usually takes about six days.


Most brewing processes end with Primary Fermentation once the beer is produced. However, Anheuser-Busch believes in quality which is why they have an extra step in their process.

Beechwood Lagering gets its name from the layer of beechwood chips that are placed at the bottom of holding tanks. Once this layer is in place, the beer is then poured into the tanks and a yeasted wort called Kraeusen is added. This process allows for the beer to completely ferment and can take a little more than a week for some beers to finish. The result is a naturally carbonated beer with a deeper flavor. Anheuser-Busch then recycles the chips as soil for playgrounds in St. Louis. Isn't that sweet?!


Now that the beer is close to perfection, it reaches the final step of the brewing process. Here it is filtered and chilled to prepare it for packaging. It is put in 32°F tanks for two days which allows the beer to settle into its final state. It is then filtered one last time before it is ready for the best part of the tour: Tasting. While tasting occurs at each step in the process, there is a final quality control checkpoint during the filtering stage. This is also when the official A-B Brewmasters taste the beer to ensure it meets the grade. Each of A-B's breweries ship tasting samples to St. Louis daily as this is the brewery where the Brewmasters gather. We got to taste Budweiser that was only 37 minutes old!


This last step is not really part of the brewing process but is a part of the overall business (obviously). This is also one of the cooler parts of the tour as you can see the process of how the beer is put into bottles, labeled, and packaged. Anything in bottles if pasteurized during this process so that it can be stored and shipped at room temperature. Kegs and draftbeer, on the otherhand, must be kept cold at all times as they are not pasteurized. The packaging lines fill over a million cans and bottle every day.

That ends the beer portion of the tour, but they don't stop there. There is one more stop: The Clydesdale Stables. This building is also a National Heritage Landmark and was the original stable used by the Buschs over a 100 years ago. Unfortunately, their house is no longer standing but was located nearby. The stables house all the horses, a couple Dalmatians, as well as some of the original wagons. It also houses Jake, the Guiness Book of World Records holder for biggest Clydesdale ever to be born!

The tour ends at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery Museum, full of rich historical facts about Anheuser and the Busch legacy. They also have a gift shop with all sorts of merchandise. Unfortunately, they seemed to be out of the Growler.

While many beer companies provide tours of their facilities, the St. Louis Brewery is one of a kind. Each room is steeped in American history, and the presence of the Clydesdales and original architecture create a true link to this nation's past from the first Budweiser to Prohibition to the annual Super Bowl commercial. Anheuser-Busch really is an American legacy and I felt honored to be a part of it.

1 comment:

  1. It is a fact that Budweiser has gone from 25 IBU's (international bitterness units, the standard measurement for the amount of hops added) down to 8 IBU's over the last 50 years. They have just changed it so slowly that nobody has noticed. So, no it has not been the same recipe for the past 100 years